Adam Silver

Chinese Television Lashes Out At Silver, Morey

China has vowed “retribution” against NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for his role in last week’s standoff between the nation and the league, writes Catherine Wong of The South China Morning Post (hat tip to NBC Sports).

In a commentary that aired today, state-run CCTV claims Silver “crossed the bottom line” with his continued support of Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who set off the dispute with an Oct. 4 tweet supporting pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Silver said this week that Chinese officials had demanded that Morey be fired, but the commissioner refused to take any disciplinary action, citing the right to free speech. However, China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, disputed that claim yesterday.

“Silver has spared no effort to portray himself as a fighter for free speech and used freedom of speech as an excuse to cover for Morey, who voiced his support for the violent actors in Hong Kong,” CCTV said. “This has crossed the bottom line of the Chinese people.”

The broadcast also accused Silver of having “double standards” and charged that he “defamed” China in front of an international audience.

“To please some American politicians, Silver has fabricated lies out of nothing and has sought to paint China as unforgiving,” CCTV claimed. The network also accused Morey of having “problems in his character” and promised he “will receive retribution sooner or later.”

NBA/China Notes: LeBron, Silver, Yao, Tencent

After making some eyebrow-raising comments about Rockets GM Daryl Morey and the NBA/China controversy on Monday, LeBron James briefly addressed the subject again on Tuesday, telling reporters that he hopes tension between the two sides dies down. However, as Ohm Youngmisuk of details, James made it clear that he doesn’t want to continue discussing the situation going forward, preferring to focus on the Lakers‘ quest for a championship.

“I’d be cheating my teammates by continuing to harp on something that won’t benefit us,” James said. “We’re trying to win a championship. That’s what we’re here for. We’re not politicians. It’s a huge political thing. But we are leaders and we can step up at times. I’m not saying at this particular time, but if you don’t feel like you should speak on things, you shouldn’t have to.”

James’ critical comments of Morey didn’t go over well in Hong Kong, where protestors chanted support for the Rockets’ GM on Tuesday, per an ESPN report. At that protest, LeBron jerseys were trampled and even burnt.

Here’s more on the ongoing NBA/China situation:

  • Commissioner Adam Silver never did meet with Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming while he was in China, but they were speaking at least 10 times per day, a person with knowledge of the situation tells Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times.
  • Ganguli also writes that the NBA’s Chinese streaming partner Tencent, which suspended its broadcasts of preseason games in the wake of Morey’s tweet, resumed those broadcasts on Monday without explanation.
  • Dave McMenamin of ESPN shares an engaging deep dive into the Lakers‘ and Nets‘ meeting last week with Silver in Shanghai, providing details on how LeBron and Kyrie Irving spoke up during that session. Among McMenamin’s interesting tidbits: James, Anthony Davis, Kyle Kuzma, and Rajon Rondo all had promotional appearances in China canceled, with one unnamed Lakers player losing a $1MM endorsement deal with a Chinese company due to the controversy. Based on a separate report from Bill Oram of The Athletic, that player may have been Kuzma.
  • In a column on the China controversy, Sam Amick of The Athletic notes that Morey’s initial tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors was sparked by a specific development. Sources tell Amick that Morey’s message came in response to a new law enacted in Hong Kong banning face masks during public gatherings. The law is “widely seen as a tactic to identify dissidents,” Amick adds.

Tension Between NBA, China Continues To Grow

Several days after Rockets general manager Daryl Morey deleted his now-infamous tweet expressing support for protestors in Hong Kong, the NBA and its partners in China don’t appear to be moving any closer to resolving the controversy it created.

Early on Tuesday morning, NBA commissioner Adam Silver followed up on the brief statement issued by the league on Sunday by publishing a new, lengthier statement which sought to clarify the NBA’s stance on the situation. In the statement, which can be read in full right here, Silver offered the following thoughts:

“Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China. We have seen how basketball can be an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties between the United States and China.

“At the same time, we recognize that our two countries have different political systems and beliefs. And like many global brands, we bring our business to places with different political systems around the world.

“But for those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.

“Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.

“… It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.

“However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.”

In response to Silver’s latest missive, the Chinese state-run television network CCTV announced it would be suspending its broadcasting agreement for NBA preseason games, writes Arjun Kharpal of CNBC.

As Stephen Wade and Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press explain, the Lakers and Nets are scheduled to play in Shanghai in Thursday and Shenzen on Saturday, and while those games are expected to proceed as planned, they won’t be aired by CCTV. Silver admitted the league wasn’t expecting the network to take those measures, per The Associated Press.

“But if those are the consequences of us adhering to our values, I still feel it’s very, very important to adhere to those values,” the NBA commissioner said.

It’s not clear if the “temporary” broadcast suspension will last into the regular season, but CCTV issued a statement in Chinese (translated by MSNBC) making it clear that it wasn’t happy with the stance taken by Silver and the NBA:

“We are strongly dissatisfied and we oppose Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right of free expression. We believe that any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

According to comments relayed by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link), Silver still intends to attend Thursday’s exhibition contest in Shanghai and hopes to meet with the appropriate officials there to find common ground with the league’s partners in China. However, he added that he’s a “realist” and recognizes that the issue may not be resolved quickly.

Silver also said that he plans to meet this week with Yao Ming, the former Rockets center who is now the chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association (Twitter link via Rachel Nichols of ESPN).

I’m hoping together Yao and I can find an accommodation, but he is extremely hot at the moment and I understand it,” Silver said.

While Silver’s latest press release asserted that the NBA’s stance is about more than “growing [its] business,” the commissioner acknowledged to Joel Fitzpatrick of Kyodo News on Monday that the controversy has already affected the league’s bottom line. According to The Associated Press’ report, the NBA’s agreement with Chinese streaming partner Tencent, which has said it will no longer show Rockets games, is worth $1.5 billion over the next five years.

However, Silver insisted that that those business issues wouldn’t affect the league’s support of Morey and others exercising their freedom of expression.

“There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear,” he told Fitzpatrick. “There have already been fairly dramatic consequences from that tweet, and I have read some of the media suggesting that we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have. I think as a values-based organization that I want to make it clear…that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression.”

And-Ones: India, Johnson, Robinson, Ball

Commissioner Adam Silver would like to start a professional basketball league in India, perhaps in the next five years, Marc Spears of ESPN reports. India would have to build state-of-the-art arenas to make that happen. The NBA had to make numerous additions — including seats, big video screens and lights — to stage a preseason game there between the Kings and Pacers on Friday.

“I think it’s inevitable that there will be state-of-the-art arenas in major cities in India, in part because these are multi-use facilities and live entertainment is increasingly important here as well. … We do need to see those arenas over time in order to play more games,” Silver said.

There’s growing interest in the league in India and its youngsters are harboring NBA dreams, Reid Forgrave of the New York Times reports.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Joe Johnson is fighting for a roster spot with the Pistons and the veteran forward hopes other players can use the BIG3 as a springboard to relaunch their careers, Eric Woodyard of ESPN writes. “That was another reason why I thought it was very important for me to take this opportunity, because those guys in the BIG3, a lot of them anyway, have hopes to at some point to be able to get back in the league,” said Johnson, who signed a partially guaranteed contract with Detroit. “So I just wanted to let everyone know that it’s possible just to get to this point.” Johnson was the BIG3 MVP this year.
  • Former NBA forward Thomas Robinson has drawn major interest from two Chinese teams, Zhejiang Guangsha and Liaoning, according to a report from Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. The 2012 lottery pick last played in the NBA during the 2016/17 season, when he saw action in 48 games with the Lakers.
  • Big Baller Brand co-founder Alan Foster has countersued Pelicans guard Lonzo Ball and his father, LaVar Ball, for alleged fraudulent concealment and breach of contract, according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. Foster alleges that LaVar Ball embezzled more than $2.6MM from Big Baller Brand and other companies associated with the family to fund an extravagant lifestyle. The Balls sued Foster in April for more than $2MM for alleged embezzlement.

Tampering Guidelines Defined In Memo

If a player induces another player to demand a trade, it will be considered tampering under the official tampering guidelines, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.

That was one of the key points in a memo sent out by the league to all teams regarding the new rules designed to curtail tampering. The league’s Board of Governors a week ago unanimously approved new anti-tampering measures.

The most notable example of a player urging another player to demand a trade famously came this summer, when Kawhi Leonard lobbied for Paul George to be traded to the Clippers as a prerequisite to signing with them as a free agent.

Another interesting item in the memo, according to Charania, states that isolated comments by a team official praising another player will no longer be regarded as a violation. Coaches and front office executives became increasingly hesitant of making positive comments about a star player for fear they would be punished by the league. That’s no longer the case as long as they don’t overdo it.

A controversial proposal has also be refined. The league will not confiscate phones or computers during its five random audits. Commissioner Adam Silver had been hesitant to take such measures. “None of us want people looking into their personal communications,” Silver said. The random audits will include a handful of a team’s communications with other front offices, players, and agents.

A new hotline will be created to allow teams and others with information to anonymously report potential violations, according to Charania (Twitter link).

Although teams can now be fined up to $10MM in “egregious” instances of tampering, Silver has also said that suspending executives, taking away teams’ draft picks, and even voiding contracts are all possibilities in the event of a tampering violation.

Adam Silver Discusses New Anti-Tampering Measures

The NBA’s Board of Governors approved a series of new anti-tampering measures last week as the league looks to crack down on the “pre-agency” deals that have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. However, there are league-wide doubts about how effective those measures can be, given the inherent limitations in identifying and proving instances of tampering.

As Sam Amick of The Athletic writes, one team executive believes that even a $10MM fine – the new maximum for a tampering violation – wouldn’t necessarily dissuade a club if it was the penalty that club had to pay for landing a star player. A second team exec suggested that the only way to truly clamp down on tampering would be to find a way to sanction agents, not just franchises.

With these concerns in mind, Amick spoke to commissioner Adam Silver about the new anti-tampering measures to get a little more clarity on how the NBA expects them to work in practice. If you’re an Athletic subscriber, the Q&A is worth checking out in full, but here are a few of Silver’s most noteworthy quotes:

On the NBA’s efforts to create a “culture of compliance”:

“There needs to be — maybe more important, even, than the penalty — a true stigma around cheating. …There’s something unique about sports, (and) I think no one wants to be viewed as having had to cheat to win. And I think what we saw was that it was a slippery slope over time, and people no longer saw themselves as violating our rules. They saw certain practices around tampering, around signings, as business as usual, rather than inappropriate conduct.

“So a lot of what we’re trying to do is make a cultural shift in this league, and I believe we can do that successfully because I believe teams want to compete on a level playing field.”

On how the league plans to handle player-to-player recruiting:

“If two players are going out to dinner and say, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be great to play in City X together?’ That’s not something we’re looking to go after. The only context in which we raised player-to-player communication is where we have a belief that a player is being sent out at the behest of the team to have a conversation with another player that the team itself could not have with that player. In essence, where a player is acting as an agent for the team, and then saying to the player, ‘What do you think about the following scenario, with the confidence that this is something that my team is willing to do?'”

On whether Silver believes the new measures will be effective:

“There are no silver bullets here. There isn’t any one aspect of the package where we came in to say, ‘This will fix the problem.’ This is something that will change over time. It’s going to change by teams seeing that it’s not just that the league office means business, but the people at the top in these organizations, these governors, when they’re putting their names on a contract, they really want to believe that what they’re signing is accurate and there has been nothing inappropriate that is done in order to sign that player.

“So I believe in it, and I think — again — now we’ve gotten the sign-off but now there’s a lot of work to do in terms of the implementation of these procedures.”

NBA Owners To Vote On Anti-Tampering Proposal On Friday

Tampering and salary cap circumvention were chief among the topics at the league’s Board of Governors meeting back in July. The NBA’s owners will take a vote on Friday to determine whether radical new procedures to curb tampering will be implemented starting with the 2019/20 season.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe of report that some teams believe the league is rushing the process of changing the rules. An annual random audit of five NBA clubs’ communication with rival front offices and player agents is a concern for many involved in the decision making.

“I don’t think he (commissioner Adam Silver) should have any right to get into my phone,” one GM said. “I wish my owner would vote no, but I doubt he will. You’ll only make yourself a target for investigation if you do.”

The ESPN duo adds that some executives are planning to “wean themselves off electronic communication” in anticipation of potential rule changes. Messaging services such as WhatsApp could become more popular in NBA circles.

The player movement era has brought on challenges for teams and a bevy of accusations and possible misconduct among players changing uniforms. For example, there’s a belief in some circles that Dennis Robinson—Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle and advisor— requested benefits that fall outside the salary, sources tell the ESPN duo. That’s already not allowed under the current rules, though the league wants to increase the penalties for such action.

In addition to the audits, top executives in front offices would have to “certify annually” that they did not tamper with free agents ahead of the start of free agency or offer any unauthorized benefits. Furthermore, both teams and players would be subject to increased fines under the new proposal. In order for the new proposal to become effective, 23 of the 30 owners/ownership groups would have to vote “yes’ to it.

Many small-market teams are expected to support the proposal for fear that teams in bigger markets may continue to sign away their players. This offseason, Leonard and Kevin Durant were among the player who signed with big-market teams. Anthony Davis and Paul George each demanded a trade to a bigger market with time remaining on their respective contracts.

Silver insists that it isn’t the league’s intention to “establish a police state,” per the ESPN duo. Silver simply wants the owners to create a culture of compliance and accountability.

Regardless of whether the proposal passes, the league will continue to address the tampering issues. Silver has authority to investigate allegations of tampering, according to the CBA, and penalize teams via fines as high as $6MM for unauthorized agreements as well as take away draft picks from clubs.

While the league wants to halt the verbal agreements ahead of free agency, it is to the benefit of both player agents and teams to have an idea of what clubs’ and players’ respective plans are.

“There’s a big difference between having conversations about how a team wants to build its roster, what it prioritizes in free agency and whether they have interest in your player — or having a deal done on June 20,” one prominent agent said. “Both sides are in the information gathering business; that’s the nature of the job.”

And-Ones: Felder, Yao Ming, China

Kay Felder is a potential target for China’s Xinjiang Flying Tigers, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reports. The team is expected to sign either Felder or Ty Lawson to replace another former NBA player, Ian Clark, who is sidelined by a finger injury.

A second-round pick by the Cavaliers in 2016, Felder was waived by the Raptors’ G League team in December after a domestic violence allegation. Felder, who appeared in 58 NBA games for Cleveland, Chicago and Detroit, played for Xinjiang last season after he was waived. The Flying Tigers’ interest in Lawson was previously reported.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • There doesn’t seem to be a star on the level of Yao Ming coming from China in the near future, Marc Spears of ESPN writes. Currently, there are no Chinese players who could make a sure-fire impact in the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver hopes that will change. “It frustrates me that there are no Chinese players in the NBA,” he said. “There’s probably more basketball being played in China than anywhere else in the world. And more NBA basketball is being watched in China than anywhere else in the world.”
  • An Atlantic City, NJ casino owned by Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta can now accept bets on NBA games, according to Wayne Parry of the Associated Press. New Jersey governor Phil Murphy has signed a bill allowing Atlantic City’s Golden Nugget casino, owned by Fertitta, to handle NBA bets that don’t involve the Rockets.
  • Former Hawks guard Malcolm Delaney will play in Spain this season. Get the details here.

Adam Silver Talks Free Agency, Trade Requests, More

After a frenzied “pre-agency” period this summer which saw a number of high-profile free agents reportedly reach contract agreements with teams even before free agency officially opened on the evening of June 30, commissioner Adam Silver told reporters on Tuesday night that the NBA has some “work to do” on the rules surrounding free agency and tampering.

“It’s still the same principles of fair balance of power and a sense that it’s a level playing field,” Silver said, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I think that’s what teams want to know. I think they’re put in difficult situations because when they’re sitting across from a player and – whether it’s conversations that are happening earlier than they should or frankly things are being discussed that don’t fall squarely within the Collective Bargaining Agreement – it puts teams in a very difficult position because they are reading or hearing that other teams are doing other things to compete.”

As Bontemps details, Silver acknowledged that the NBA’s current tampering rules can be difficult to enforce, and that the league should be focused on establishing rules that can be enforced — otherwise, there’s little point in having them in place.

“I think the sense in the room was we should revisit those rules, think about what does make sense for our teams so that ultimately we can create a level playing field among the teams and that the partner teams have confidence that their competitors are adhering to the same set of rules they are,” Silver said.

Silver weighed in on several other topics during his Las Vegas press conference on Tuesday, so we’ll round up a few of the highlights, via Bontemps, Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press, and Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

On star players asking to be traded:

“It concerns all of us. I mean, it falls in the same category of issues of the so-called rule of law within a sports league. You have a contract and it needs to be meaningful on both sides. On one hand, there’s an expectation if you have a contract and it’s guaranteed that the team is going to meet the terms of the contract, and the expectation on the other side is the player is going to meet the terms of the contract.

“I will say, without getting into any specific circumstances, trade demands are disheartening. They’re disheartening to the team. They’re disheartening to the community and don’t serve the player well. The players care about their reputations just as much. And so that’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”

On many of 2019’s very best free agents choosing to go to big markets (Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers; Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to the Nets):

“I think you have unique circumstances with those players and those teams. But I think it speaks to the fact that the significance of these brands, the fact that the Nets and Clippers have put themselves in position over the last few years to be attractive to top free agents. So I think at the end of the day, it’s positive for the league.

“… I’m mindful of this notion of balance of power, and I think it applies in many different ways. An appropriate balance of power between the teams and the players, an appropriate balance of power I’d say among all our 30 teams, big markets, small markets, some markets that are perceived as being more attractive than others, tax issues, climate issues. At the end of the day, you want to make sure you have a league where every team is in a position to compete.”

On draft-night trades that aren’t yet official, resulting in draftees wearing the wrong team’s hat and – in some cases – not being on the right team by the start of Summer League:

“We’ve got to fix that. We talk about being fan-friendly, and that isn’t fan-friendly.”

And-Ones: Casspi, Sampson, Expansion, Armstrong

Veteran forward Omri Casspi has overseas options if he doesn’t get an NBA offer in free agency. Two prominent teams, Maccabi Tel Aviv and Olimpia Milano, are interested in signing Casspi, according to Davide Chinellato of La Gazzetta dello Sport (hat tip to Sportando). Casspi came off the bench in 36 games last season with the Grizzlies, averaging 6.3 PPG and 3.2 RPG. Casspi, 31, has played for a handful of NBA teams since the 2016/17 season and is a career 36.8% 3-point shooter.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • JaKarr Sampson has signed with Shandong in the Chinese Basketball Association, Emiliano Carchia of Sportando reports. Sampson played six games with Shandong last season and 24 G league games with the Windy City Bulls. The 26-year-old forward also appeared in four games with the NBA Bulls last season and has 173 NBA games under his belt.
  • The Las Vegas Summer League has been highly successful but there are no plans for the league to expand in that city or anywhere else, according to Mark Anderson of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Commissioner Adam Silver said that expansion is “not on our agenda right now.” Silver also reiterated there are no plans to relocate a current franchise. “There have been no indications from any of our current franchises that they’re considering relocating,” Silver said.
  • Terry Armstrong, a 2020 draft prospect, will play South East Melbourne Phoenix of the Australian National Basketball League, ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reports. The 6’7” Armstrong is currently rated No. 40 by Givony. No. 6 prospect RJ Hampton and No. 24 prospect LaMelo Ball have also signed with the NBL. Armstrong played for four high schools in three different states.